In parts 1 and 2 of my International Travel series, I told you about much of my trip to Taiwan in Summer 2010. This post will finish up my trip to Taiwan with details of my bus (ok, really just a van with three tourists and a tour guide/driver) trip out of Taipei and to the Northeast Coast National Scenic Park.
It was kind of a miserable, cloudy day, so unfortunately my pictures didn't turn out as well as I had hoped due to poor lighting conditions and a less than satisfactory camera. You'll just have to trust me that the drive was beautiful!
One of the first stops that we made was to visit the Nanya Rock formations. Having grown up the American Southwest, I'm not unfamiliar with beautiful geologic formations. However, the area around Nanya Rock was just stunning. The erosion on the rocks is caused by the water running from the mountains down into the ocean, which strips away the iron in the rocks to reveal incredibly beautiful layers of color.
I won't lie and say that the little beach roach thingys that were precisely everywhere weren't absolutely terrifying when they began moving toward me en masse; seriously, the things were creepy. However, I did manage to find a few places away from them to snap some pictures. The climbing involved was definitely worth it to capture some otherworldly images.
On our way from Nanya Rock to Jiufen, we made a quick stop to take some pictures.
I don't remember the exact location, but I do remember that I was utterly fascinated with watching a woman combing the exposed shoreline for shellfish.
Leaving the woman and the coast behind, we passed an old copper mine, long since closed, on our way to Jiufen.
The road to Jiufen was very steep and in many cases, the turns were so sharp and narrow that I was sure that our little van would plunge off the side at any minute. I tried to keep myself busy by snapping (really bad) pictures of the pagodas that dotted the mountainsides.
Quite suddenly, we were upon Jiufen. Our tour guide instructed us to meet him at the Jiufen Tea House, then left us to explore the area for about an hour. I have to say, even with my less-than-stellar point-and-click camera, the view was amazing.
Virtually everything revolves around the shopping haven that is Jishan Street. It is crowded, narrow and assaults the senses with sights, smells and noise from every direction.
You can find just about anything there for a relatively cheap price. I was tempted to purchase a necklace...
...but settled for some wooden cat ring holders for my family and friends.
The food offerings were equally as eclectic. Adventurous foodies can test the strength of their stomach linings with local cuisine ranging from crushed peanut brittle on flat bread to every variety of baozi available, grilled conch shells to lobster chips (with big eyes!), spaghetti to every-flavored jelly things. I also learned that anything can be pickled.
Incidentally, driving is prohibited on Jishan Street between 1000 and 1700. Apparently, the gentleman who nearly took me out in front of a jewelry stall didn't care about such irritating restrictions. I don't think the cat snoozing on the utility boxes nearby really cared either.
As one of my fellow travelers and I were ready to escape the crowds, we made our way over to the Jiufen Tea House. It was like walking into a quiet, serene sanctuary a thousand miles away.
I took many pictures of the extremely kind and patient woman who served our tea in the traditional manner over an in-table coal stove, but unfortunately, most of my pictures turned out blurry. (Yet one more reason to go back soon with my new and improved camera!) Just believe me when I tell you that if you happen to be in the area, you must stop by the Jiufen Tea House for some of their exquisite tea!
After we finished our tea, we did a bit more walking around away from the crowds, which brought us to Old Jiufen Street.
There's an old, closed-down theater down that long stairway.
Most locals use the space by the old entrance as an area to park their scooters, but I was absolutely captivated by an old poster that still hung above the entrance. I'm sure I'll translate what was scrawled on it... eventually.
If I learned anything from my trip to Taiwan, it is that life springs up everywhere it can find the room to flourish thanks to the lush tropical environment.
After more than an hour in Jiufen, our motley crew headed back to Taipei. I met up with some of my colleagues to enjoy our last evening in Taipei, which included a quick dinner at Taipei 101. I have to say, that building is really quite beautiful at night.
As we drove to the airport the next morning, I took a few moments to consider all of the experiences that I had enjoyed during my few days in Taiwan.
The trip left me with indelible images of a crowded, lush and beautiful environment steeped in an ancient culture with a fascinating history. Our hosts were absolutely incredible and truly made us feel welcome. My only regret is that I wish that I had been able to spend more time exploring the island. It was truly an amazing trip and one that I am so grateful to have been able to experience. I hope to visit again soon!